Department of Education

Sandra Mathers

Senior Researcher

Sandra is part of the Families, Effective Learning and Literacy (FELL) research group. Her main research interests are the quality of early education and its effects on child development, early language development and professional development. Sandra’s research is strongly policy-focused, and she has led a number of large-scale evaluations of early childhood initiatives.

Her most recent research studies have considered whether disadvantaged children receive comparable quality early years provision to those from more advantaged backgrounds, and explored the early years experiences of children in care.

She is currently leading the development and implementation of an early years professional development intervention designed to improve children’s oral language skills, which is being tested as part of a randomised controlled trial. Sandra’s research has had significant policy impact, and she is a regular adviser to local and national policy-makers.

Sandra studied psychology at the University of Nottingham and holds a PGCE in Primary Education.

Funded Research Projects:

  • Mathers, S., Siraj., I., Evangelou, M. and Williams, C. Using Research Tools to Improve Language in the Early Years (Intervention Study)

    (2015-2019)

    Education Endowment Foundation. £907,544

  • Mathers, S. and Sylva, K. Evaluation of the Oxfordshire Leaders of Early Learning Programme

    (2015-2019)

    Oxfordshire County Council. £51,102.

  • Mathers, S. & Broome., E. Starting Out Right: early education and looked after children. Nuffield Foundation

    2015-2016

    £44,483 Barlow

  • J., Lindsay, G., Sylva, K., Mathers, S., Solomon, E., Summerbell, C., Glover, V. and Bick, D. Fulfilling Lives: A Better Start Evaluation

    2013-2024

    BIG Lottery Fund £5.5 million

  • Sylva, K., Mathers, S. & Eisenstadt, N. Sound Foundations: what do we know about quality for under threes and what are the implications for policy?

    2013

    Sutton Trust, £30,869

  • Mathers, S. Quality and Inequality: Do Children from Deprived Areas Experience Lower Quality Preschool Provision?

    2012 to 2014

    Nuffield Foundation, £32,723

  • Mathers, S., and Singler, R. Improving Quality in the Early Years: University of Oxford, Daycare Trust and A+ Education Ltd.

    2011-2012

    Nuffield Foundation, £79,672.00

  • Mathers, S. and Sylva, K., Evaluation of the Graduate Leader Fund (quality study)

    2007 – 2011

    sub-grant to main DfE grant held by the National Centre for Social Research. DCSF, Sub-grant £766,000; main grant £1,244,794 to all partners.

Publications:

  • Featured Publications

    • Mathers, SJ, Roberts, F, Sylva, K (2013) “Quality in Early Childhood Education”, In: G Pugh, B Duffy (eds.) Contemporary Issues in the Early Years. London: SAGE Publications Limited.

    • Mathers, SJ, Linskey, F, Woodcock, J, Williams, C (2012) Mapping the Infant Toddler Environment Rating Scale to the EYFS 2012. ECERS.

    • Mathers, SJ, Linskey, F, Woodcock, J, Williams, C (2012) Mapping the Family Child Care Environment Rating Scale to the EYFS 2012. ECERS.

    • Mathers, SJ, Linskey, F, Woodcock, J, Williams, C (2012) Mapping the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale to the EYFS 2012. ECERS.

  • Book chapters

    • Mathers, SJ, Ereky-Stevens, K, Dalli, C, Barbour, N (2017) “Quality of Early Childhood Education and Care for Children under Three: Sound Foundations”, In: L Miller, C Cameron (eds.) The SAGE Handbook of Early Childhood Policy. SAGE.

    • Mathers, SJ, Roberts, F, Sylva, K (2013) “Quality in Early Childhood Education”, In: G Pugh, B Duffy (eds.) Contemporary Issues in the Early Years. London: SAGE Publications Limited.

    • Roberts, F, Mathers, S, Joshi, H, Sylva, K, Jones, E (2010) “Childcare in the pre-school years”, In: Children of the 21st Century: The First Five Years. 131-152

  • Journal articles

    • Mathers, SJ, Tracz, R (2018) “Early education as an intervention for children looked after”, International Journal of Birth and Parent Education.

    • Sammons, PM, Sylva, K, Hall, J, Siraj, I, Melhuish, E, Taggart, B, Mathers, S (2017) “Establishing the Effects of Quality in Early Childhood: Comparing evidence from England”, Early Education. Occasional Paper. March 2017

    • Barlow, J, Beake, S, Bick, D, Bryson, C, Day, L, Gilby, N, Glover, V, Knibbs, S, Leyland, A, Lindsay, G, Mathers, S, McKenna, K, Petrou, S, Purdon, S, Sylva, K, Summerbell, CD, Tudor, F, Wheeler, A, Woolgar, V (2017) “Initial protocol for a national evaluation of an area-based intervention programme (A Better Start) on early-life outcomes: a longitudinal cohort study with comparison (control) cohort samples.”, BMJ open. 7(8) e015086+.
      DOI: http://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2016-015086

    • Mathers, S, Sylva, K, Eisenstadt, N, Soukakou, E, Ereky-Stevens, K (2014) “Supporting early learning for children under three: Research and practice”, Journal of Children's Services. 9(2) 177-187.
      DOI: http://doi.org/10.1108/JCS-02-2014-0008

    • Mathers, S, Linskey, F, Seddon, J, Sylva, K (2007) “Using quality rating scales for professional development: experiences from the UK”, International Journal of Early Years Education. 15(3) 261-274.
      DOI: http://doi.org/10.1080/09669760701516959

  • Reports

    • Mathers, S, Hardy, G, Clancy, CM, Dixon, J, Harding, C (2016) “Starting Out Right: early education and looked after children”, In: Starting out right : early education and looked after children. London: Nuffield Foundation.

    • Mathers, S, Eisenstadt, N, Sylva, K, Soukakou, E, Ereky-Stevens, K (2014) Sound Foundations: A review of the research evidence on quality for early childhood education and care for children under three. Implications for policy and practice.. London:

    • Mathers, SJ, Linskey, F, Woodcock, J, Williams, C (2012) Mapping the Infant Toddler Environment Rating Scale to the EYFS 2012. ECERS.

    • Mathers, SJ, Linskey, F, Woodcock, J, Williams, C (2012) Mapping the Family Child Care Environment Rating Scale to the EYFS 2012. ECERS.

    • Mathers, SJ, Linskey, F, Woodcock, J, Williams, C (2012) Mapping the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale to the EYFS 2012. ECERS.

    • Mathers, SJ, Singler, R, Karemaker, A (2012) Improving Quality in the Early Years: a comparison of perspectives and measures. University of Oxford, Daycare Trust and A+ Education.

    • Karemaker, A, Mathers, S, Hall, J, Sylva, K, Clemens, S (2011) Evaluation of the Graduate Leader Fund. Factors relating to quality: findings from the baseline study. Department for Education.

    • Mathers, SJ, Ranns, H, Karemaker,, A, Moody, A, Sylva, K, Graham, J, Siraj-Blatchford, I (2011) National Evaluation of the Graduate Leader Fund: Technical Report. London: DfE.

    • Mathers, SJ, Ranns, H, Karemaker, A, Moody, A, Sylva, K, Graham, J, Siraj-Blatchford, I (2011) National Evaluation of the Graduate Leader Fund: Impact Study Final Report. London: DfE.

    • Mathers, SJ, Linskey, F, Nelson, A (2009) ECERS-EYFS map.

    • Mathers, SJ, Linskey, F (2009) UK addendum to the ECERS-R.

    • Smith, R, Purdon, S, Mathers, S, Sylva, K, Schneider, V, La Valle, I, Wollny, I, Owen, R, Bryson, C, Lloyd, E (2009) Early Education Pilot for Two Year Old Children Evaluation. Nottingham: DCSF Publications.

    • Mathers, SJ, Sylva, K, Joshi, H (2007) Quality of Childcare Settings in the Millennium Cohort Study. London: DfES.

    • Mathers, SJ, Sylva, K (2007) National Evaluation of the Neighbourhood Nurseries Initiative: The Relationship Between Quality and Children’s Behavioural Development. London: DfES.

  • Other

    • Mathers, SJ, Smees, R (2014) Quality and Inequality: do three-and four-year-olds in deprived areas experience lower quality early years provision.

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